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Patriots quarterback Mac Jones needs to lead his first big-time upset


FOXBORO — At this stage in his NFL career, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones hasn’t had much success as an underdog.

He hasn’t been able to elevate the Patriots when necessary, which will be the case Thursday night against the favored Buffalo Bills. The Pats are 2-7 as underdogs with Jones starting.

Those two wins?

One was at Buffalo last year in a windstorm. Jones only threw three passes in the game.

The other was a road victory in Los Angeles against the Chargers. Jones didn’t throw a touchdown pass in the 27-24 upset and barely completed half his passes, going 18-of-35 for 217 yards. On Thursday, he’s going to have to do more, or else the Patriots will continue to be mired in mediocrity, which is where they’ve been since Tom Brady left.

On Thanksgiving night against the Vikings, Jones produced his best game of the season. Only, he wasn’t able to do much with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. The Patriots went three-and-out, three-and-out, and turned the ball over on downs, before the clock ran out on a 33-26 defeat.

Statistically, with Jones passing for a career-high 382 yards, two touchdowns, and no turnovers, it’s hard to be too critical of the performance. But ultimately he didn’t deliver.

“We want to be able to score more points and win the game, so that’s all that I care about,” Jones said after the loss. “That’s all that we care about is winning, and we didn’t do that tonight.”

It’s not all on Jones of course. But being the quarterback, that’s usually where it starts.

While the fact-finding mission on Jones and whether or not he’s a franchise quarterback has been made more difficult in Year 2 with a new set of coaches and a new offense, it would be nice to see him take down an elite team amid all the internal chaos.

To this point, there’s been little evidence to suggest Jones can get the job done.

Thus far, he’s 12-10 as a starter. Of those dozen wins, eight were blowouts. There was only one comeback, a road win over the lowly Texans last season. But nothing where he’s put the team on his back and delivered in the clutch en route to victory.

Being a first-round pick and having won a national championship after working up the ranks at Alabama, it should be in his competitive DNA.

Granted, Jones had a great surrounding cast with the Crimson Tide. And while he doesn’t have weapons that compare to Tua Tagovailoa’s arsenal in Miami, or Jalen Hurts’ assembly in Philadelphia, he still should be capable of delivering with what he has.

That’s why more than halfway through his second season, Jones needs to beat a team — and an opposing quarterback — he’s not supposed to beat.

Three passes in a monsoon doesn’t count. Barely losing to Brady’s Buccaneers and Dak Prescott’s Cowboys last season also doesn’t get him many style points.

He needs that defining game where he breaks through and delivers a legitimate upset. Or scores more when the defense surrenders 20 or more points. This season alone, Jones is 0-4 as a starter if the opposing team hits 20 or more.

Taking down the Bills by scoring however many points it takes would certainly be a good place to start for him and the Patriots, who are 6-5, and currently out of a playoff spot.

Teammate Hunter Henry is steadfast in his support of Jones, and believes he’ll get the job done.

“He’s doing a great job, man,” the Patriots tight end said of Jones during a Monday afternoon news conference. “This year has been tough at times. Just going through an injury and battling his way back. It’s fun to see him have success and just the leader he is.

“We just continue to ride him throughout this whole year. He’s a stud. I’m glad he’s my quarterback. Glad he’s our quarterback. Excited to go out there and compete every single week with him.”

Jones’ fellow 2021 draft class mate Trevor Lawrence got the upset monkey off his back Sunday, when he rallied the Jaguars from two fourth-quarter deficits to beat the favored Ravens. Lawrence led a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones. Then he hit Zay Jones for the 2-point conversion with 14 seconds left to complete the Jaguars upset over the AFC North frontrunners.

In 28 starts, it marked Lawrence’s most dramatic come-from-behind NFL victory. It also figures to be the moment Jaguars fans will look back on and say that’s where he took off, and a great career was set in motion.

As everyone in New England and beyond knows, it happened for Brady in his first Super Bowl, when the Patriots were double-digit underdogs against the Rams’ Greatest Show on Turf.

Brady took over on his own 17 with the score tied with 1:21 remaining and calmly moved the ball into position for Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard game winner. It was that clutch sequence that set Brady’s career in motion.

The point being, it would go a long way if Jones was able to lead the team to an upset, and author one of those moments.

Beating Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis and the Jets twice doesn’t exactly enhance the resume. Only one of those teams has a winning record. If Jones & Co. are able to take down the Bills, it could be the spark that helps land the Patriots a playoff berth, or at the very least, keep them in the hunt.

Do it when the betting odds say you can’t. Do it against a better team with a better quarterback. During his media session Sunday, Jones said the Bills have the best defense in the league.

If he beats them, and takes down Allen, that’s the kind of statement win you’re looking for.


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